As the first month of the 2009-10 season comes to a close, the Blackhawks have taken advantage of a weak schedule and built a strong foundation. Despite Marian Hossa being sidelined, Cristobal Huet having some issues, and now Jonathan Toews and Brent Seabrook missing a couple games, the Hawks have won games they were supposed to in October.
The team, and their fans, can now look forward to a November schedule that’s not only against better competition, but mostly away from the comforts of the United Center.
After nearly a week off after Friday night’s game against Montreal, the Hawks begin their November schedule with back-to-back nights on the road against tough conference opponents. Games at Phoenix (6-4-0, 12 pts) and then at first place Colorado (8-1-2. 18 pts) will press the young Hawks.
After a weekend off, the Hawks return home for their only four home games of the season. Leading scorer Anze Kopitar brings his first place LA Kings (8-4-0, 16 pts) to Chicago on the Monday the ninth, followed by a Wednesday night battle with Colorado (again). The Hawks will get a break from the rough schedule with Toronto (1-7-1, 3 pts) on Friday the 13th.
After Roenick Night, the tough sledding comes for the Hawks. Six games, on the road, against tough teams in a ten day stretch could go a long way in determining where the Blackhawks fall in the playoff seeding in April.
The other factor that could come into play at this point in the season is Hossa, who might return as early as Roenick Night; indications are that it could, and probably should, be early December, but his progress has indicated that mid- to late-November might be a possibility. Adding a stud scorer for that tough stretch could be huge.
The Hawks close the month by travelling to Calgary (7-2-1, 15 pts), Edmonton (6-4-1, 13 pts), and San Jose before ending the month with back-to-back games at Anaheim (3-6-1, 7 pts) and the Kings on the two fays following Thanksgiving. The Friday game at the Ducks is a matinee, with the puck dropping at 3 pm in Chicago.
When November ends, the Hawks will have played 12 games, only four of which are in Chicago, and only one of which is against an Eastern Conference team. The Hawks will play two games each against the other two current division leaders, Colorado and Los Angeles, which could play a significant role in determining how many home games the Hawks play in late April and May.